This episode features Kathryn Smith, a 1982 graduate from the U.S. Air Force Academy. In this episode, you’ll hear why Kate made the decision to be part of one of the first classes of women to attend the Academy, her goals upon entering the Academy and how they changed and evolved over her 4 years in attendance, and why she ultimately chose to leave the military and transition into a law career that eventually took her full circle back to serving Veterans as an advocate. Enjoy the show!


  • Attending an Academy without ever seeing it
  • Being one of the first class of women at the Academy
  • Sexism and racism at the Academy and law school
  • Viewing the Academy as a mistake
  • Reclaiming her veteran status and coming full circle as an advocate


  • Can you tell everyone where you’re from? What school you went to and when you graduated?
  • Can you give everyone 1-2 lines about who you are?

1:30 PART I:

  • What made you choose a Service Academy – and what made you specifically choose the U.S. Air Force Academy?
  • Was going to a Service Academy at that time rare in the little town where you grew up?
  • Did you have any reservation being a woman in one of the first classes at the Academy?
  • Did the people around you support your decision to apply?
  • Did you visit the Air Force Academy before you applied?
  • Did you look at other academies?
  • Did you apply to other colleges?
  • Was getting into the Academy pretty smooth for you?

9:40 PART II:

  • Did you have a plan for what you’d like to do post-graduation?
  • Tell me about that first day and first year.
  • How did you get through the blatant sexisim you experienced?
  • How many women were there when you were a student?
  • Do you feel that being a minority made the women closer?

16:57 PART III:

  • What were some of the highlights of your time at the Academy?
  • What was it like being a black woman at the Academy at that time?
  • Did you feel prepared when you showed up at the Academy?
  • What did you end up majoring in?
  • What was your communication like with family when you were at the Academy?

27:00 PART IV:

  • Why she would have made different choices if she knew then what she knows now.
  • What were some of the major lowlights for you at the Academy?
  • Being told that she failed her aptitude test.
  • Sitting on an honor board for a classmate.
  • Major lessons learned at the Academy.

35:00 PART V:

  • What was the plan as you approached graduation?
  • What was the transition like leaving the Academy and moving to Los Angeles as an Acquisitions Officer?
  • How long did you stay in the military?
  • What was it like transitioning out of the military?
  • How was your experience in the military compared to your experience at the Academy?

44:40 PART VI:

  • When did you decide to get an advanced degree?
  • What was it like to transition from a civilian career in Los Angeles, California, to Law School in South Bend, Indiana?
  • How was the sexism and racism at Notre Dame vs the Air Force Academy?
  • What was the goal while you were at Notre Dame?
Kate’s baby daughter, born prematurely, with her USAFA combat boots


  • So what are you doing now?
  • What’s next for you?
  • How do you currently feel about your decision to attend an Academy?
  • What’s next for you?
  • Do you have any parting words for listeners? Perhaps a key message to your fellow Service Academy sisters?
  • What’s one random fun fact about you?
  • Where can people reach you?


Twitter: @Awesome_K8L

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